A segment of 10,000 newly released documents from the Nixon administration reveals the president was worried that Israel, a nation created and supported by the United States, would be the most likely culprit in a possible Middle East arms race.
This once classified information, distributed publicly for the first by Nixon's presidential library on Wednesday, emerges as leaders from Middle Eastern countries completed an aggressive round of peace talks in Annapolis, Md.
Though Israel has never publicly acknowledged harboring nuclear weapons, speculation has run amok about the nation's missile programs.
Former national security adviser Henry Kissinger addressed many of these concerns in a memo to Nixon dated July 19, 1969. He designated options the president should consider should the nation decide to incite a nuclear war.
"Our problem is that Israel will not take us seriously on the nuclear issue unless they believe we are prepared to withhold something they very much need -- the Phantoms [military planes] or, even more, their whole military supply relationship with us," Kissinger said in the memo. "Yet, if we explain our position publicly, we will be the ones to make Israel's possession of nuclear weapons public with all the international consequences this entails."
Nixon would receive this gloomy report the same day he congratulated astronauts by phone for successfully landing on the moon. Kissinger said he did not believe the United States could ask Israel to halt missile production, but expressed optimism that Nixon could convince leaders there not to deploy such weapons should they be inclined to do so.
"The Israelis, who are one of the few peoples whose survival is genuinely threatened, are probably more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons," Kissinger said in the memo.
Israel likely stole fissionable material from the United States in 1965, the memo said, and mandating inspections to find them might prove useless since inspectors could not cover "all conceivable Israeli hiding places." The boiling unease between the two nations added tension to an anticipated visit by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
Of the many options delivered to Nixon, Kissinger suggested the best action might be denying to the rest of the world that the United States knew what Israel was doing.
Other documents show Nixon denied recommendations from top FBI officials trying to groom the agency's second in command, Mark Felt, as its new head.
Nixon passed on Felt and instead appointed Patrick Gray, a loyalist who held several offices in Nixon's administration, to the position.
Felt would become Deep Throat, the anonymous source cited in Washington Post articles that brought down the Nixon administration in the Watergate scandal. Gray resigned one year after accepting the post due to his role in shredding Watergate documents.
Other document topics released Wednesday include a talk between Nixon and President Pak Chong Hui of Korea about the United States-Republic of Korea Defense Treaty, a State Department telegram about Saudi Arabia's role in a campaign against terrorism that supported a Kurdish uprising in Iraq and a plea by Jordan's King As-Sayyid for the United States to attack Syria. The United States wanted the Saudis to denounce a military wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a memo dated March 8, 1973, says. The United States believed the organization supported Black September, the terrorist group whose massacre of Israeli athletes marred the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Though many of the formerly classified documents are heavily edited, they still reveal many foreign policy issues that have faced this generation's Bush and Clinton administrations and that have plagued the country for decades.
A handful of these letters and memos can be viewed online at http://nixon.archives.gov/virtuallibrary/documents/mandatoryreview.php.
© 2007 Daily Texan via U-WIRE